Portrait of the Entrepreneur as a Young Dog: Unchaining the Beast-Within, with Free, Open Source Software

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 03/17/2010 - 05:20.

ICEarth Card

Inside of bifold business card for ICEarth, by Norm Roulet, featuring his affiliations
Image from NASA, manipulated in Gimp and Scribus - Vdub  and Goudy Bookletter 1911 Light Fonts

 

In approaching 30 years of living and dying as an entrepreneur, I can say that to choose this path in life is to choose to be treated like a dog, by everybody... unless you make a fortune. That said, it is a better life than that of cattle and sheep. And, like Lassie, an entrepreneur may truly save the day.

To wikipedia:

An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. The term is originally a loanword from French and was first defined by the Irish economist Richard Cantillon. Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to the type of personality who is willing to take upon herself or himself a new venture or enterprise and accepts full responsibility for the outcome. Jean-Baptiste Say, a French economist is believed to have coined the word "entrepreneur" first in about 1800. He said an entrepreneur is "one who undertakes an enterprise, especially a contractor, acting as intermediatory between capital and labour."

Start-up entrepreneurs face a universe of technical challenges, to unchain the beast in their being. They must start an operating entity, run a business, and communicate many complex concepts, at complex stages of development, to a complex of networks... each with different purposes... some operational and others administrative.

Today's entrepreneur must do all of this well, using complex information technologies as simply as possible.

Until partners, staff and contractors are added to the team, the entrepreneur must do all this largely alone, with limited resources, and must always address information technology, communications, identity management and imaging early in the process, at considerable cost, time and effort.

Right now, in developing ICEarth, I am launching through the stages of business start-up, and offer first-hand insight on the challenges inherent in the realities of "entrepreneurship" - through what I call the "Portrait of the Entrepreneur as a Young Dog" Project - today featuring how using open source software offers invaluable strategic opportunities for entrepreneurs... at lift-off.

For a breif description of Open Source software, I'll refer to the open source encyclopaedia, wikipedia:

Open-source software (OSS) is computer software that is available in source code form for which the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under a software license that permits users to study, change, and improve the software. Open source licenses often meet the requirements of the Open Source Definition. Some open source software is available within the public domain. Open source software is very often developed in a public, collaborative manner. Open-source software is the most prominent example of open-source development and often compared to user-generated content. The term open-source software originated as part of a marketing campaign for free software. A report by Standish Group states that adoption of open-source software models has resulted in savings of about $60 billion per year to consumers.

Considering the definition of the entrepreneur - especially "one who undertakes an enterprise, especially a contractor, acting as intermediatory between capital and labour." - and the definition of Open Source Software - especially "adoption of open-source software models has resulted in savings of about $60 billion per year to consumers", it certainly makes sense for entrepreneurs to use free, open source software as much as possible in developing their enterprises.

In developing a new enterprise, one must start with determining what computing operating systems, technologies and applications shall be employed at the server, desktop, laptop and handheld levels... ultimately adding up to the enterprise operating environment. In general, the choices of operating system for business computing include dominant offerings from Microsoft, Apple and the open source world, in variations on Linux. Microsoft and Apple sell expensive, proprietary operating systems and other computing applications. Linux is an open source (the source code is freely available) operating system, which may be used for free or may be purchased from development companies that have packaged Linux into supported distributions, such as RedHat.

The various software applications needed to operate an enterprise are designed and developed to operate on one or more of these operating systems. Developing the optimal mix of information technology environments and applications is core to the success of any enterprise, at all stages of evolution. Most common business applications for use on the Windows and Apple OS cost money - most applications for use on the Linux OS are available at least in source code for free.

Software development companies and individuals have created seemingly limitless programs to run on these operating systems. Programs are designed uniquely to the operating system. Some software applications are provided by the developers to the public for free, and the source code is made public, while other software has private code and is only sold to paying customers.

There is free, open source software that runs on costly, proprietary Microsoft and Apple OS, and expensive proprietary software that runs only on Linux.

Most servers in the world... most supercomputers in the world... most significant enterprises and governments in the world... run Linux at the core.

Most entrepreneurs begin their new enterprises carrying forward the legacy systems they have used in the past, from school through past employment and enterprises through experience at home - if contacts are in Outlook, their platform is Windows... if their music is in iPod, their platform is Apple. Thoughtless entrepreneurs may very well launch new enterprises without giving their operating system a second thought, beyond their earbuds.

Before falling into that trap, in starting a new enterprise, the entrepreneur must consider what of their legacy matters in the new economy - does the entrepreneur want to carry contacts forward to the new economy, or CMS software license costs... does the entrepreneur want music, or to be told what to do by Apple.

With Linux, the entrepreneur may carry forward most legacy data from the old economy of Apple and Windows, and use their legacy data that matters from the past in building the foundations for the enterprise of the future.

Even entrepreneurs who feel locked-in to Apple or Windows standards, technologies and applications should build Linux and open source software awareness and capabilities into new operations and administration, from the beginning. By adding Linux to some or all enterprise computers also running Windows or Apple, you open the door to open source - by setting your enterprise computers up to dual-boot, you are positioning your people to take steps through open doors when and as they are able.

Many enterprises do the opposite, agreeing to exclusive licenses for hardware and software from a limited set of lock-in vendors, exclusively using proprietary software, locking out the possibility of using open source in the enterprise at all.

Why even consider locking-out open source software, anywhere within your enterprise... especially at the OS.

While there are many open source applications that run on Windows and Apple OS computers - Firefox is most prominent... OpenOffice most dominant - the best way to develop an open source platform for an enterprise is building on a Linux foundation from the OS up.

I won't go into detailed explanations of how and why Linux may be the best foundation for any business operations, other than to stress that configured and installed right it is the most secure, efficient and effective way to go, day to day and in the long run... just remember, "A report by Standish Group states that adoption of open-source software models has resulted in savings of about $60 billion per year to consumers"

The first time you boot a computer in Linux you will realise that you may now do anything that may be done with information technology, better than you have ever been able before, right "out of the box".

With your typical Linux distributions, whether free or shrink-wrapped, you have included applications for communications, audio, video, business, and living that would cost $1,000s if you were to purchase them from software development companies. And, all are state-of-the-art. By state of the art, we are talking professional grade - really professional... by professionals, for professionals.

Beyond the standard Linux desktop, there is a staggering world of open source development occurring around every imaginable technology and human need - I am focused on open source Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Enterprise Resource Planning, Point of Sale, Supply Chain Management, Customer Service and communications, including Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), at the present time... things that cost $1,000s to do with proprietary software, in the closed technology world.

All of this open source development is occurring globally, for the global new economy that is the marketplace of all new economy entrepreneurs... why would a global entrepreneur use tools with closed borders to get there.

Entrepreneurs are always looking for new pathways to opportunity in the new economy. To meet our operating objectives, at ICEarth we are developing core code for computing hardware devices to run with Linux, making unique technologies in the process... you can't do that in a closed code world.

The Linux OS has moved to the handset level, with Android, allowing us to network physical and virtual community together in uniquely integrated ways, to the open voice handset and soft-phone level. None of this was possible before soft and cell phones began running open source code, and communicating with open standard WiFi networks, over the open standard TCP/IP Internet, altogether.

If you have only used proprietary hardware and software, you may not even realise such creative applications of information technology are possible, for and by normal people.

The start-up entrepreneur seeking appreciation for the open source world may want to explore with the creative side of the brain, with a most fundamental step of creating the enterprise... creating the brand identity, logo and business cards to communicate you exist to the people in your physical world.

Big Bang card design - back of bifold card

ICEarth Card Design - bifold back
Image from NASA, manipulated in Gimp and Scribus - Vdub Font

Creating your identity package requires hiring a graphic designer, which should cost $1,000s, or designing, creating and producing everything yourself. Most entrepreneurs have no choice but to do everything themselves, at start-up.

Most of the identity content the entrepreneur must now create is for web use, and desktop publishing at the start-up level. Desktop publishing output is now affordable in photo-quality, to the home office.

In the past, to launch new enterprises, I have spent $1,000s on design and publishing software that I used for a few days, and never again... not to mention printing...! As I have developed new imaging needs, like to add video to the mix, I have had to consider spending $1,000s more for additional software, and upgrading hardware, that quickly grows obsolete.

Adding multimedia production to business applications and the operating system, on a Windows or Apple laptop or desktop, requires high-end hardware, and the cost per workstation for basic software in the proprietary world is in the $1,000s per year, at the least.

To launch ICEarth, I have spent nothing on software, have complete flexibility in choices of hardware, and have realised the best results with information technology in my long career.

Over this past weekend, working from my free OS Linux computer, I was able to explore and experiment with dozens of professional, free graphics programs, and I quickly adopted and used several astounding applications, and accessed an unlimited world of free images and fonts - I chose to use many images from our federally (taxpayer) funded NASA program - to develop an imaging package for ICEarth that is out of this world!

ICEarth Card Design - bifold front

ICEarth Card Design - bifold front
image from NASA, manipulated in Gimp and Scribus - Vdub Font

Developing your identity yourself, right, requires desktop publishing, image manipulation, font management and editing... even 3-d rendering, if your creative juices take you there... this is your identity you are developing, so the results will be your calling-card to the world... this all matters.

For Windows and Apple operating environments, you may buy software to do anything you may desire with your identity development, at great cost. There are complex, resource-rich, expensive proprietary programs to create and manipulate fonts, text, images, graphics and video of every format, with every technical possibility, and the licensing costs may add up to $1,000s per workstation to use that. This software carries expensive nameplates, and changes by full versions, necessitating frequent reinvestments in applications and underlying technologies at the whim of global enterprises, at as great of annual and lifetime costs to end users as possible for the enterprise.

And their CEOs were once entrepreneurs...!

To free enterprise identity management from such costly lock-in, use open source software for your corporate imaging.

For desktop publishing, I suggest trying Scribus. That is what I have used to develop business cards and other identity pieces for ICEarth, and I found the software better than any proprietary desktop publishing package I've used - cost of an equivalent program for Windows or Apple is $500+. From Wikipedia:

Scribus is a desktop publishing (DTP) application, released under the GNU General Public License as free software. It is based on the free Qt toolkit, therefore native versions are available for Linux, Unix-like, Mac OS X, OS/2, and Microsoft Windows. It is known for its broad set of page layout features, comparable to leading non-free applications such as Adobe PageMaker, PagePlus, QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign.

For manipulating images for my desktop publishing, I use Gimp, which I have for 5 years considered my standard for photo editing and image manipulation, at no cost - cost of an equivalent program for Windows or Apple is $500+. From Wikipedia:

GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free software raster graphics editor. It is primarily employed as an image retouching and editing tool. In addition to offering freeform drawing, GIMP can accomplish essential image workflow steps such as resizing, editing, and cropping photos, combining multiple images, and converting between different image formats. GIMP can also be used to create basic animated images in the GIF format. At present GIMP is entirely suitable for amateur or professional work with images intended for viewing on monitors and printing on inkjet printers; GIMP does not yet offer the CMYK separation and color management functionality which is essential for prepress work.

The product vision for GIMP is to become a high-end graphics application for the editing and creation of original images, icons, graphical elements of web pages and art for user interface elements. One point in GIMP's product vision would see GIMP used for the development of cutting-edge image-processing algorithms

Scribus "gets" images from Gimp... and, when I need to edit images in Scribus, Scribus loads them in Gimp - these open source applications are far more integrated than one would imagine.

Scribus opened my eyes up to the huge variety of open license fonts available in the open source world - it took me half a day scrolling through free fonts to choose the fonts I'm using for ICEarth... and I loved 100s. It was worth the time and effort to scan from beginning to end, as the font I chose begins with the letter V... which came after scrolling through all the fonts A-U.

Even with 1,000s of fonts to choose from, I want the ICEarth look and feel to be entirely unique... so I'm experimenting with several of the font editing applications available open source, and developing a new font for my enterprise, which I shall contribute to the open source world.

A future entrepreneur may some day choose to use the open license ICEarth font as a foundation for their future enterprise... that possibility is already open to us all.

Windows and Apple OS font editing software equivalents may cost over $1,000, and proprietary fonts may be very expensive.

How badly does the entrepreneur want a unique look? Perhaps not worth $1000s to try developing unique fonts ... definitely worth exploring for free.

How badly does the entrepreneur want imaging to look great? Badly enough to buy expensive, complex software to learn and use for a weekend, to produce one card design and some marketing materials? ... definitely worth exploring for free.

How badly does the entrepreneur want to develop unique video footage for the imaging package? Badly enough to invest $1,000s more for proprietary video software, and upgraded technology, to see if that adds magic to the marketing? ... definitely worth exploring for free.

How badly does the entrepreneur want to remain free of costs and burdens to others, and lock-ins to the limitations of the old economy, as the entrepreneur seeks to succeed in the new Economy? Badly enough not to make the mistake of chaining the enterprise and all stakeholders to the costly technology limitations of the old economy? ... definitely worth exploring for free.

Using open source software may save entrepreneurs $1,000s per workstation, per employee, per year, forever.

That is not at all complex.

Now that I have my open source Linux environment in place, running some of the world's fastest computers with our ICEarth Linux distro, and I have my corporate imaging under control, with various integrated open source applications always current and on call, I may focus attention on the business administration applications I need to run my enterprise at the bleeding edge of the new economy, to address complex needs ranging from corporate communications to bookkeeping and accounting.

I'll share what open source applications I explore and integrate into our environment as we reach each development stage in our take-off.

Chill.

From the Portrait of the Entrepreneur as a Young Dog Project, by Norm Roulet

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